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Russia and China veto US resolution calling for immediate Gaza ceasefire

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A US resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s war in Gaza was vetoed by Russia and China in the UN Security Council on Friday.

The US proposal was the clearest signal to date that Washington has tired of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct in the war against Hamas in Gaza.

But Moscow’s and Beijing’s decision to veto the resolution on Friday revealed again the US’s diplomatic isolation in the UN, where it has also been trying to maintain support for Ukraine in its war against Russian invading forces. Algeria also voted against the measure.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia described the US initiative as “hypocritical” and said passing it would have made the Security Council an “instrument in the advancement of Washington’s destructive policy in the Middle East”.

The resolution, on which US officials have been working for several weeks, also warned against Israeli plans for an offensive in Rafah, the southern Gazan city where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled in search of sanctuary from Israel’s attacks in the north.

The vote on the resolution coincided with the latest trip to Israel by US secretary of state Antony Blinken, and came after weeks of US frustration with the way Israel’s government, led by Netanyahu, has conducted the war.

Speaking in Cairo ahead of his arrival in Israel on Thursday night, Blinken said an “immediate, sustained ceasefire with release of hostages” was needed, and that “a major ground operation in Rafah would be a mistake and something that we can’t support”.  

“There is no place for the many civilians who are massed in Rafah to go to get out of harm’s way. And for those that would inevitably remain, it would be a humanitarian disaster,” he said.

Washington has previously vetoed UN resolutions calling for a ceasefire.

Israel launched its offensive on Gaza after Hamas carried out a devastating attack on Israel on October 7, during which militants killed 1,200 people and took a further 250 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

But US officials have become increasingly outspoken in recent weeks about their concerns over the soaring humanitarian toll of Israel’s assault, which has so far killed about 32,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian officials, and displaced more than 1.7mn of Gaza’s 2.3mn population.

The UN has warned that there is a risk of an “imminent famine” in northern Gaza, and said that 1.1mn people across the besieged strip were projected to face “catastrophic levels of food insecurity”.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly insisted that they will launch an assault on Rafah, arguing that it will be impossible to fulfil their goal of destroying Hamas without doing so. “We are determined to complete the elimination of [the Hamas] battalions in Rafah, and there is no way to do this without a ground incursion,” Netanyahu said earlier this week.

However, international pressure against such a step is growing. The EU agreed late on Thursday night a common statement condemning Israel’s conduct in Gaza and warning against an invasion of Rafah.

The bloc’s 27 leaders called for “an immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and the provision of humanitarian assistance”.

The agreement comes after months of division between EU countries over the war, with Belgium and Ireland among those most critical of Israel’s actions.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, whose government holds the rotating EU presidency, said on Friday the bloc now had an “extremely clear” position.

The EU statement also refers specifically to the “imminent risk of famine”. “This is something which is really a priority for us,” De Croo said.

Senior Israeli, US, Egyptian and Qatari officials were due to meet in Qatar on Friday for further talks aimed at brokering a deal to release the hostages and securing a truce.

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